Tuesday, October 28, 2008

update pending / relief

after drunkenly raving about tenuous nick cave/john darnielle connections last time, i finished typing (out of a sense that i needed to just stop more than anything else), and quickly became relieved that i had not followed the thread i was originally going to write about. which was, that while it was cool to be able to download (in a cool way) satanic messiah, i was angry that it was going to be nearly impossible to score the other tour only mountain goats record, the 12" six-song black pear tree e.p., by tmg and kaki king. i hadn't any tickets for the forthcoming show (the one a week ago, now) and i was all "shit, it's great to be able to download thank you mario, but our princess is in another castle, but i am an addict, and i need every goddamned bootleg version and alt-take and un-released tracks, thank you very much, and i can't have it and i wants it (sob, sob).

but then while i was getting ready to go in that direction, i hyperlinked the address for three beads of sweat and when i did that, i noticed that a.) they were still in business; and b.) they had copies of the bpt ep!!! i ordered one immediately, and, i was later to discover, none too soon. so i was one of the really lucky people to have been able to get an ep from that avenue, and i now have it in my little hands, and know two things:
1. it's really good.
2. i will blog more about it soon (as soon as i finish the illustration, probably)

so, i thought i'd mention it. also thought i'd mention what's on deck in the next month or so.
-the long-promised anacortes special (elvrum, woelv, d+, etc.)
-elf power
-david kilgour
-the lucksmiths

see you soon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

a howl like screeching tires

so i woke up this morning. sadly, i am not on kawara, so the event in itself wasn't so notable, but i did wake up with the seeds of this post germinating in my loamy little brain. that's pretty unusual, me hosting cognitive activities first thing in the ay-em. usually i think the following (in order): poop; clothes; coffee (there's a whole subset of making sure i have the money for the coffee and the keys to my little kingdom so i don't get locked out, but that's hardly here nor there).
so, anyway, i had this fairly well-formed thought stream about how the recent mountain goats stuff--or rather the transition john darnielle seems to be making, resulting in new mountain goats stuff--has a remarkable similarity to the arc of nick cave (and the bad seeds, but specifically, nick cave). 
oh, sorry, i should probably go into detail. actually, i should be specific that there's no way the folkish yelping of john darnielle could be mistaken for the gravedigger's baritone of nick cave, they look totally different (especially since nick grew the stache), but there is a strand here to follow, honest. to wit:
i should probably start with a little background for those without a working knowledge of either protagonist. 
•nick cave started out with seminal aussie punk band the birthday party, and with heroin. his raw rough lyrics and grinding music helped define a certain "eurotrash" sort of sensibility that tapped into latent post-war anger and frustrations, particularly in west germany (with die haut), but also with the post-punk transition in england and eventually, especially with the formation of long-time partners in crime, the bad seeds, an influence on more esoteric american artists, and also claimed a kinship with this country's native genres, particularily blues, particularily delta blues (especially in the case of 1985's the firstborn is dead). themes of death, god, redemption, hell, sex and violence were packed heavily into cave's output for over a decade, up until the rollickingly morbid murder ballads of 1996, a record that was funny and disturbing, and a blistering meld of traditional and folk flavors with cave's own particular black sensibilities. a mere year later, however, cave released the boatman's call, easily one of the most beautiful albums i've ever listened to. the hysteria of the past few years evaporates, and the most tender love songs fill the void, every cranny of it. somewhere between the release of boatman and its successor, no more shall we part, i saw cave perform a 'solo' set (he had a few backing musicians, but not the bad seeds, and they were very subtle), with many of the songs featuring just nick and a piano. incidentally neko case opened that show (at seattle's paramount theatre, if you care), and the combination of the two made for an indelibly potent evening. anyway, the point i thought about making *ahem* was that after a fairly straight trajectory, nick cave opened the door to this far-more melodic strain of musicianship, crooning and emoting. however, he continued to make more blistering hell-and-brimstone rock'n'roll as well, and as evidenced by his other project, grinderman, that aspect was strengthened by the divergence.
well, that seems to be the process that john darnielle (of) the mountain goats is going through as well these days. 
•the mountain goats, as many must surely have heard by now, is the brainchild, little baby, deranged child, awkward teen and crazy young man of singer/songwriter (sorry, i know that's a terribly abused term) john darnielle. for many years of tmg's existence, jd has been the sole member, but the band has also held to its bosom: bassist rachel ware zooi; maniac genius franklin bruno; superchunk drummer jon worster; producers-du-luxe john vanderslice and scott solter; and of course longtime enabler peter peter hughes, who has been a mainstay of tmg's live shows and recording sessions for years. tmg began with john making home recordings and selling tapes at shows and puting ou compilations and little splits and eps. he carved out a place with brutally good lyrics and a manic yelp paced by the standard of american music: the acoustic guitar. it should be mentioned it was many years before he bought a strap.
(a shit-ton of that early stuff can be found on the compilations protein source of the future...NOW!, bitter melon farm and ghana, all put out on the entirely worthy chicago label three beads of sweat. they are an excellent primer for anyone wanting to gain an encyclopedic knowledge of american lo-fi history; i am not exaggerating).
at a near-fever pace, darnielle has pumped song after song out for years, with a deep lyrical sense of the debauched poverty and rusting ecstacy of the soul of america that is on a par with jack kerouac and tom waits, among others. 
gradually though, the minimalist scratching of sweden and zopilote machine gave way to a tighter "band" aesthetic which broke through, as they say, with 2002's tallahassee, tmg's first "major label" (4AD) release, and which, for better or worse, gave the world track seven, no children, which would get my vote for most-requested-song-ever song. tallahassee was followed up by the amazing full-lengths we shall all be healed and the sunset tree, the latter of which was the first to explicitly tap into john's own past for subject matter. there was, notably, still a bit of yelpin' going on.
on 2006's get lonely, however, the typical mountain goats "sound" gave way to an emotionally charged, but sensitive and subdued suite of quiet songs which departed starkly from people accustomed to best ever death metal band in denton, going to cleveland, and especially no children. if you can track down a bootleg of jd playing the songs (some for the first time in public) at easy street in seattle (it's worth the trouble), you can hear the real raw feelings they open up, and when you combine them with the babylon springs ep, a slicker, more produced pop album that, wierdly, isn't included on a bunch of discographies, there is a similar sense of a related convergence, like nick cave's (ah-ha! you thought i'd maybe strayed too far into my own mind!). the next full-length release, this year's heretic pride, featured an integration of the recent piano-heavy work (like tianchi lake) and more "mountain-goaty" numbers like autoclave and lovecraft in brooklyn. it was, for some i know, a relief (as some freaked out about the "over-production" on babylon and the "pussification" of get lonely (neither opinions shared by me)) that the hard edge hadn't been dulled. the trend (of "growing up" maybe?) seems to be continuing, as jd's work becomes more (and here i cringe) "competent" and more diverse in their production values. 
of particular relevence is 1) the performance john gave at sxsw (in 2007) where he played three non-album songs (that i know of), pinklon, ethiopians and the traditional cowboy song red river valley. (incidentally, this is one of the love-hate factors of being a mountain goats fan: john writes songs all the time and not all of them survive more than a week or so, or even a day; once on kexp i heard him play a song called the mummy's hand that he had written the lyrics to on the plane into seattle, and the chords to in the hotel that morning; it was gorgeous, and i've never heard it anywhere else. ever. he does this shit all the time, playing stuff i would KILL to have on my ipod. i mean, there's this song, tulsa imperative, that jd was annoyed with so never kept working on, but pph recorded it with his band diskothiQ and it's great!). anyway, 2) is the brand-spanking new ep, satanic messiah, four piano songs of great narrative power which were released on a ridiculously limited edition of 666 copies (apparently #666 will not be on the market, being reserved for it's earthly creator) on vinyl. thankfull, john loves you and wants you to hear the music and has set up this site: satanicmessiah.com, so you can download the album, for free if you wish, in multiple digital formats. you may also make a donation of your chosen denomination (because, as jd says, "jah knows it wasn't free to make"). your humble host donated $6.66. less commercial than rainbows, this enterprise is a little more interesting considering the considerable depth of the artist, and john's long-standing endorsement of music sharing, legal and otherwise. i found it a warm gesture. i still really want that vinyl (it's being sold only at the merch booth at tmg shows; i have little chance i fear).
what was i saying? 
oh yeah, the interesting similarity between the career trajectory of nick cave vs. the mountain goats.
if you can't apply what i've been going on about to your own experience, you should go out and listen to these two mammothly influencial entities' outputs. i assure you, it will be well-worth the time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

everyone's heart should be broken

i am aware i am segueing from my promised post yet again. sue me.

i just received an historic package in the post (well, not "just," it was more like five hours ago, but i had things to do, and i just now am sitting down to bloggify (that's like testify, only less religious malarcky, and more indie crap)).
"what, what, matt, what historic package was this," i hear you say (because i hear things).
well. let me just tell you.
i have mentioned boyracer here several times already, and here i go again. the england-to-arizona twee punk legend(s) have put out their final record, and are calling it a day. as boyracer anyway. stewart anderson has said it's time to focus on new baby and herd of cattle (hopefully in that order), and the pipe dream of being a rock star is currently untenable. he has since said there will be a new project from him and jen turrell (featuring a violin!), but after its incredibly long run, it's time to put boyracer to bed. 
to commemorate the occasion, stew and jen have released a brilliant lp on vinyl in a limited edition of 100 copies. they sold out in about a week or something.
pretty damn good. they record is too. 
or rather, it kicks you in the balls, then when you've crumpled to the ground, it cracks your skull with steel-toed doc martins, and as the brain and blood oozes out, it puts out its cigarette in the waste. in a good way, that is. exellent fucking record. punk rock in all it's speedy-drummy-squeally-grindy-guitar-attention-deficit-disorder-basslines-andspitspitspitoutthemlyrics-delivery-glory. stewart's rapid-fire whine wheedles you into thinking it's 1995 again, and jen shrieking in the background is vintage riot grrrrl.
side two starts off with a drone of some outrageously bureaucratic flavour, which yields seconds later into a grinding guitar riff which opens up one of my favorite songs on the lp, "northshire coastline", followed by the likewise excellent "a sober truth." the riot of drums and maelstrom of feedback provide a gorgeous trapeze-artist's net for anderson's high-pitched voice, and it's hard to think of any young bands today who can deliver the clashing favours of disaffection and lusty joy of what punk has to offer--certainly not the crop of teen-rebel idols. i don't watch american idol, but i've seen glimpses of it, and i have to tell you, i genuinly feel sorry for the insipid little shits who think that's what music is. maybe i'm just getting old, thinking how much better "we" had it (actually, it sucked. the music was just really good). i really don't see bands like mudhoney, seaweed, boyracer, galaxie 500, the violent femmes, the vaselines, or a hundred other bands relegated to the dustbin of indie-history (oh, you never sold a million records? mariah carey and whitney houston are obviously better artists).
it makes me want to puke. 
so does the whiskey i drank on a troubled tummy...

i could rant aimlessly, drifting from one fragment of thought to another, surfing the conciousness stream, but i want to mention the coda to the lp, and to boyracer itself, the last song on the record, "the last word."
it jells everything that brought me to boyracer in the first place (a lucksmiths cover of "i've got it (and it's not worth having"). enough punk to take the piss out of the geezers, enough melody and sentiment and smart lyrics to enamour the indie cognoscenti, beautiful guitars and clamouring drums. it's an unabashed "goodbye," an autobiographical paen to what's behind stewart, a "my way" without frank's misogynistic psychopathy, with a final flourish that could have been treacly if it wasn't so whole-heartedly good: a cameo from jen & stewart's baby tallulah, who gurgles with delight and closes this chapter on a truly great little band.
i feel really lucky to be one of the one hundred...

oh yeah, the lp was called sunlight is the best antisptic, featuring a slice of corrugated cardboard with a horse in the desert silkscreened planly in black. the track listing, record sleeve, lyrics, all are just tucked into a plastic cover with the cardboard; a simple, in-your-face d.i.y ride into the sun. and did i mention it's all sold out? what a way to go.

also, i just have to mention that jen also made the most gorgeous hand-decorated t-shirts. the best band shirts ever. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

on the devil's tail

i seem to have a problem with my resolution. i say i'm going to write about something (and usually i get around to it) but then i write about another thing instead. like eel. 
don't worry, i'm not writing about eel again (for now).
i was going to write about the anacortes vinyl, but i haven't really processed any of it yet (although i listened to 2/3 of the microphones, and the watery graves of portland and genevieve, and they're really good).
today though (a monday) i have been lurching through one unfinished chore to another. my hot water's off and i want to take a shower, and i'm waiting for the man to fix the pipes. i'm greasy from work yesterday, and irritable, and my mind keeps wandering (small wonder, since i've only fed it coffee today). i've been playing all sorts of stuff as i scuttle around my apartment, with the constant rainfall serving as interlude between the discs. i've already listened to the microphones (as i said), pet politics (the swedish band, not the silver jews song, or the mountain goats cover of the silver jews song), shonen knife (in english), shonen knife (in japanese), and finally a buttload of john vanderslice. about halfway through suddenly it all went dark (a limited-edition cd from barsuk feauring j.v. in a chicken coop in california with a two-track and the songs from trance manual) and i saw the postman out the window trudging wetly away from the house. 
there's very little i enjoy as much as the anticipation of what the mail will bring, and there are many pending parcels somewhere in the world heading my way, so i walked down the stairs to check the box. apart from the new issue of dwell, there was also a new cd-r sent from a young guitarist in ireland called cian nugent.
his first solo disc, a recording of his fourth-ever live performance, childhood, christian lies & slaughter, is a quietly strong instrumental set filledwith stunning meanderings through cian's original songs. sounding much less than "trad," traditional irish music, and far more like american blues married to spanish classical, nugent's able fingerwork and slightly unholy sensibilities make for the perfect accompaniment to the grey tedium of early october seattle. listening to it i think also of the eerily cheerful score to the wicker man (1973) by paul giovanni. there's an appalachian twang in some of the phrases and a timelessness as well, and the overall effect is compelling and slightly ominous (hence the affinity with the wicker man--actually, it also sounds a little like the creepier work by the decemberists, like the tain and some of the songs on the crane wife). and then of course, there's the fine, suggestively flawed character of the album's title. nice one.
i should also mention, as an aside, the reason i came across cian nugent in the first place. i was surfing around the myspace music world (on midday veil's page, if i'm not mistaken) and i saw one of those "ad-comments" labels/bands/venues/whatever tend to pop onto the space. the ad was from the flemish label audiomer, and it had this gorgeous image of a bloodred medieval landscape with a massive, po-faced donkey (or something) hauling in its mouth the prone body of a man (these in black ink rather than crimson). the whole scene was super-creepy, and gorgeously drawn, by belgian designer/audiomer-honcho wouter smeraldina-rima, to resemble germanic woodcut engravings of the sixteenth century. the image also reminded me strongly of the illustrations for the arturo pérez-reverte novel el club dumas (which was adapted (sloppily, but engrossingly) for the screen by roman polanski as the ninth gate) the woodcuts in that story, executed by lucifer himself, lead a wolfish book dealer named corso (johnny depp, very well-cast, in the film) on the path to ultimate seduction by the devil.
while the recording is far less diabolical than the path of associations that led me to it, the seduction of nugent's strings is evident, as is his clear talent.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!

oh, holy shit, i just received the pile of vinyl i ordered from p.w. elverum & sun (source of wind). shit, shit, shit, it's amazingly gorgeous and i haven't even listened to it yet... as soon as i wipe the drool from my self i'll lie down on the floor and absorb it. omnibus blog coming soon...